Tag Archives: transport secretary

Government wakes from electric dream

So Philip Hammond’s policy — his one lonely policy* — of encouraging people to drive electric vehicles has been cut.  The government are still wasting money giving £5,000 subsidies to people who are already able to afford expensive new electric cars (though it will be interesting to see how much longer that lasts), but they will no longer be building a network of charging points, instead leaving owners to charge their vehicles at home.  The greenest ever government can’t even be bothered to keep up its greenwash.

The electric vehicles policy was never ambitious, and at best stretching the definition of “green”.  It envisioned replacing internal-combustion (ICE) vehicles with electric vehicles by 2050.  That’s forty years.  The twenty year old book that arrived on friday arguing for cycling as a political priority was already noting the overwhelming evidence for climate change and the need to do something about it.  For twenty years we’ve faffed around doing not much, and the government proposes that we leisurely carry on for another forty.  Never mind the fact that we have less than half that time to completely decarbonise if we are to avoid catastrophe.

And the extent to which electric vehicles are green also depends, of course, on how green their manufacture and the generation of their power is.  Our electricity, still mostly produced by burning a lot of imported coal and gas, is considerably greener than burning a lot of imported refined oil, but it’s not green enough to avert catastrophe if we don’t decarbonise it in the next couple of decades — a project that is already way behind schedule.  Even when we do decarbonise, the more we rely on electricity, the more dams, barrages, wind turbines, nuclear plants, and, least welcome of all, pylons we need to accommodate.

Of course, carbon is the only thing that matters about transport, right?  When I worked in a London office I would enjoy many a fun argument about people who chose to drive in London: “ah, but somebody who drives a little hatchback back and forth in zone 1 & 2 might have a smaller carbon footprint than somebody who commutes from Brighton or Bath by train every day.”**

Even if electric vehicles did solve the carbon problem, they would solve none of the others associated with car use — the nascent sedentary-lifestyle-related public health crises, the ongoing road danger scandal, the waste of urban land and spoiling of urban environment, the deleterious development patterns that exist in symbiosis with car dependency.  EVs do admittedly have one less method of directly producing air pollution.  Problems that can all be solved by shifting shifting journeys to active transport.

Active transport remains suppressed by political policy.  The lack of support for the types of interventions that are proven to work at enabling journeys to be switched to being made by bicycle; and the continuing policies that prioritise the motor vehicle and prevent pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets, as epitomised by Blackfriars Bridge, amount to government suppression of cycling and walking.

If we are to meet our carbon deadlines — not “targets”, deadlines — we need a plan that would, by 2030, tear down the barriers that all over the country are preventing people cycling.  That is, primarily, the environment.  Most people will never cycle on the streets as they are now.  We must change the streets, and we haven’t got time to faff around about it.

It’s not like Philip Hammond has any other policies to pursue.

(Consider that our cycling mayor, from the party that gave us the greenest ever government, is father of a cycling revolution which he hopes to give London an embarrassing 5% modal share for cycling by 2030 — an achievement that he intends to make at the same time as maintaining motor traffic flow at current level and without any meaningful changes to London’s streets.)

* I’m giving High Speed Rail to Osborne and Danny Alexander, since it’s they who will pull the plug when the time comes.

** Indeed, it is because of these arguments that I spend so much time discussing all of the other problems with motorised road transport and all of the other reasons to support the alternatives, and rarely mention the carbon and climate issue.

Punch and Judy town planning policy

“Pickles and Hammond to end the war on motorists.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government put these words in a press release and today 221 national and local newspaper journalists* copypasted them into their newspapers, noticing nothing nonsensical in their conjunction.  Great job, The Media.

The press release was announcing the abolition of two ten year old Labour policies: Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transport (PPG13), and Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).  The department spin this as the abolition of an “encouragement” to local councils to charge for town-centre car parking, and of a rule that limited car parking in new developments in the hope that fewer residents would own cars as a result.

Given that the war “on” motorists is a war between motorists as ever more of them compete for increasingly scarce land and resources, these policies will of course merely serve to make people’s lives even more miserable as they sit in a whole new level of congestion.  Not that I expect there to be any noticeable difference to most people’s lives as a result of this policy — it’s a drop in the ocean given the mess that we’re in.  And anyway, the policy merely devolves these decisions to local councils, who are unlikely to make any changes given their own dire situations.

Philip Hammond said, “this Government recognises that cars are a lifeline for many people.”  Which is interesting, because a lifeline is “a line to which a drowning or falling victim may cling to.”  The person on the end of a lifeline did not intend to be there, and he does not intend to stay there.  To get there, something has gone wrong, and the lifeline user intends to leave the lifeline behind as soon his feet are safely back on solid ground.  Lots of people will tell you that they have no choice but to drive a car, but most of them would rather they didn’t have to.  The car is a lifeline that have grasped after the doctor’s surgery closed, and then the butcher and baker closed, and then the library closed, and then the post-office closed — all because of the rise of car-dependent development around them.  These people don’t want to have to drive twenty miles to town.  They want their services back.  Philip Hammond’s policy is to encourage new developments that force people to use a car against their will; he’s pushing you overboard and expecting you to be grateful as you’re dragged along on a “lifeline”.

On the announcement, “Decentralisation Minister” Greg Clark said something that is actually mostly true:

“Limiting the number of drives and garages in new homes doesn’t make cars disappear – it just clogs residential roads with parked cars and makes drivers cruise the streets hunting for a precious parking space.”

But this is no excuse for giving up.  It is a fact that there is far more wrong with recent development patterns than just car parking; car parking alone does not create car dependent communities.  But we have to tackle all of the problems — we need more action, not less — and car parking was a start, at least.

And of course, Hammond again plugs his hoverboard development programme.  I know I should have no reason to be surprised by the depths to which British politicians and newspapers can sink, but the scale of the current farce is just amazing.  It looks like Hammond’s entire tenure as transport minister will be based on the recurring pantomime of riding his magic car to rescue the beautiful Motorist from the nasty Labour men and their War.  Apparently this is the “new kind of politics“.

* or, rather, 221 websites indexed by Google News, which is an overlapping, but not identical set.  And some of nationals at least didn’t swallow the line whole.

Pickles and Hammond to end the war on motorists

Weekly War Bulletin, 2 Oct

The exciting news of the week is that petrol head secretary of state for transport Philip Hammond has ended the War On The Motorist by announcing that John Prescott’s M4 bus lane will revert to an all-traffic lane.  Never mind the fact that this will do nothing to improve the actual journey times of Motorists, because a bottleneck further down the road determines its overall capacity.  This is politics, after all: no room for evidence in deciding policy.  Interestingly, this news has pitched private Motorists against cabbies, with desperate attempts to justify the presence of taxis in bus lanes.  Despite being the most universally hated road users in London, the taxis could at least rely on the politicians — who in turn rely on taxis to avoid mixing with the proles on the buses — for friendship and a free ride down the bus lane.  Now even Phillip Hammond has deserted them and told them to sit in the jams with all the other non-public transport.

A meaningless PR “study” finds that Clapham and Wandsworth have the most congested roads in London.  The AA say the problem is roadworks and a lack of “money thrown at the problem”.  Not too many cars, then?  The Evening Standard commenters actually fill me with hope for once:

What the lobbyists fail to mention though, is that there are simply too many cars in London. Why is that simple fact not mentioned?

You could a south London version of the Westway and it would still end up gridlocked. Road works don’t help in the slightest but it’s just a distraction from the true cause.

Of course, they won’t mention that, because in UK plc any attempt at tackling this problem is a “war on the motorist”.

- Ashley, Camden, 01/10/2010 13:57

The government has stumbled upon a clever scheme to keep good news about transport funding flowing: regularly announce that Crossrail funding is safe.  Everyone will forget that you already announced that last week, and the week before…

But Norman Baker, Minister for Pedestrians, Cyclists, Bus Passengers, and Other Unimportant Transport Users, has this week announced that Bikeability will not be allowed to go up in flames with the bonfire of the quangos.

The Met have expanded their Cycle Task Force.  There are some hilarious and presumably sarcastic comments from the mayor’s transport advisor: “the Cycle Task Force is a fundamental part of the cycling revolution the Mayor has delivered in London,” and “however there is always more that can be done to make London the best cycling city in the world…”

A hit-and-run killer dragged a woman under their car for a mile, around Belsize Park.  Meanwhile, a killer delivery driver in the city gets a suspended sentence.

Driver re-education courses, for careless driving and law breaking, won’t work.  Not that the £1000 fine given to hardened criminal Katie Price for careless driving and apparently texting while driving a horsebox on the motorway will.

The government has published its Manual For Streets, advocating shared space for the nation’s high streets.  Look forward to some of the ideas being implemented in the street regeneration plans that have been announced for Belfast, Bournemouth, Prestatyn, and Reading.  Also in the regions, Clay Cross in Derbyshire has been given conservation status; and Aberystwyth gets more money to spend on green transport (interesting that the BBC illustrate the story with a “cycling forbidden” sign).

Work begins on the next couple of “superhighways”.  Interestingly, they’re the ones to serve, erm, the two parts of town that already have superhighways.

Going places is going to continue to get more expensive.  (Unless, erm, you walk or cycle there?)  Lets all blame the government and ignore the rising prices of increasingly hard to obtain oil.

TfL aren’t very good at replying to freedom of information requests — or are good at procrastinating on them, anyway.

French towns are replacing their bin lorries with horse-drawn recycling carts.  This is still the least absurd modern transport solution I’ve heard all year.  The robotic high-density deep-underground car park in Birmingham being one of the many absurdities indicative of late-phase chronic car dependency.

South Wales are making more shock adverts about careless and dangerous driving.

Drivers who pass their driving test are safer than the ones who don’t.  Thanks, Professor Obvious.

Stratford Central Line westbound has an exciting revolutionary new platform where the doors can open on both sides of the train.  Magic.

Nobody is stealing hire bikes.  Well, five.  Of more concern is that the Independent have adopted the Evening Standard‘s awful name for them.

Segway owner accidentally rides Segway over cliff, falls to his death.

Smelly cyclists not welcome in New Forest tea shops.

Kingsland cyclist muggers arrested.

Anti-social Motorists in Guidford “block one-way system“.

Lorry collides with M6 at Coventry.  Car collides with M11 in Essex.  And the National Arboretum has opened a memorial to those who have died in the name of Motorways.

And a house has collided with a 206 in Hampshire, a Cafe has collided with a Vauxhall in Aberdeenshire, and three houses collided with a car in Sunderland.  Meanwhile a bollard has collided with a Nissan in Derbyshire.

Luxury cars torched in Dundee and Devon, and a “spate” of scratched cars on the IoW.

Australia have launched a National Cycling Strategy.  Lets hope they’ve looked at Europe and noticed which country’s strategy has succeeded and which is failing, and picked the one that works.

Finally, Google Street View now covers Antarctica.

Some moments of zen: Old man rides a bikeBear rides a train.  And, man carries carpet on mobility scooter — how irresponsible: that 8mph carpet could have been a danger to the poor Motorists…

“It’s a danger to himself and a danger to other motorists. If someone wasn’t careful, they could’ve hit him off and he could’ve got seriously hurt and his family wouldn’t like that.”

Weekly War Bulletin, 19 June

Previously, Jag-driving cycle-fearing new Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond candidly told interviewers that his teenage son had asked him, “so, ah, what is the point of your job?”  Politics Home is now reporting that he has been candidly telling interviewers for The Spectator that not being a Lib Dem is the only possible reason he didn’t get a real job, the job of the moment, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.  It’s almost as though he wishes he weren’t Secretary of State for Transport.  That’s one thing we’re all agreed on, at least. (Tip of the hat to Railway Eye)

However, the power hungry petrol head did find time amongst all the other Very Important Things that transport secretaries do to end the speculation over whether the new government would drop tools on Crossrail: they’ve promised carry on and finish the whole thing.  Just not said when by.  Presumably this means that it’s Thameslink upgrade, Great Western electrification, and HS2 that get cut instead.  (HT to London Reconnections)

Luckily, the economics boffins advising the government have developed a cunning plan for saving money on running trains.  It’s all about supply and demand, see.  If demand outstrips supply, you’ve got to do something to bring the two back into line.  The boffins suggest that the way to do that with rain travel is to rip out the seats.  Perfect!  Make trains even more crap and demand is bound to fall back into line with supply.  Even better, raise the fares by 7%.  If that doesn’t get ‘em back in their cars, what will?

Meanwhile, we find ourselves unlikely allies of the Daily Mail, who report that even in the age of the economy drive there’s still one publicly funded ministerial limo left in Westminster.  It belongs to one David Miliband, who has been clocking up the miles on the campaign trail, and allegedly leaving it on the double yellows while he pops out for some hand-shaking and baby-kissing amongst the party members.

Also, pity the poor hard done by driver as there are more new calls for a reduction to the drink-drive limit — do check out the wonderfully vacuous and inarticulate statement from the not-even-entertaining-anymore Association of British Drivers, who were brave enough to take a stand against those who will take away the right of the humble Motorist to go out and kill somebody of a Friday evening.  And then there are the trials of countdown displays on pedestrian crossing lights.  These should be fun: pedestrians have been so well trained by drivers to think that the phase when the green man and the amber traffic light are both flashing is a phase designated for rapid acceleration of vehicles, and now traffic planners have decided to make the situation more interesting by re-training pedestrians to think that they can still safely step out into the road just at that moment when drivers are eyeing the amber light with their feet poised.

Meanwhile, in the provinces…

York has decided against having congestion charging, in favour of “improving public transport and making walking and cycling more attractive”.  Staff at Dulux are on standby for a large order of blue and red from the city council as I write.

Pavement cyclists in Norfolk.  Tut.  More on these later.

Look at these unsporting fellows in Manchester, installing average-speed cameras.  That’s basically a war crime.  Everyone knows that average-speed cameras take all the thrill out of speeding without getting caught.  The comments are, as ever, entertaining.

Cyclist rides naked through Suffolk village.  “We don’t have this sort of thing in Acton.”  Nope, I tellin’ ee, that’s the sorta nonsense them there folk up London way gets up to, with their disgusten by-cyclen ways.

Sustrans claims huge success in getting kids to cycle to school.  The people of Northamptonshire must be shocked and appalled.  There, the council’s opposition Labour group think it’s an absolute disgrace to suggest that kids should be doing something so dangerous as cycling, and want a stop put to it at once.

In Wales, man with mentally crippling micropenis condition desperately seeking some sense of purpose but running out of ways to try finding it.

And finally, secret recordings leaked from the BP boardroom, here re-enacted by actors:

Ceasefire!

The new transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who enjoys driving his Jaguar and is frightened of the dangerous situations that cyclists bring upon themselves, has pledged to bring an end to the war on the Motorist.  We, the British people, welcome Mr Hammond’s position and hereby declare our willingness to enter into negotiations for a ceasefire.  Here are our demands.

  1. Stop the killings.  The occupying Motorist governments have systematically turned a blind eye to the massacre of British civilians, including countless women and children, by Motorist soldiers.  The institutions of Motorist society have handled such atrocities internally, punishing the worst war-crimes, such as the herding of pensioners onto their mandatory “Zebra crossings” before violently killing them, with symbolic non-punishments, such as the six-month suspended sentence and the £60 fine.  If the Motorist establishment expects a ceasefire, they must make the first move.
  2. End the occupation of our cities.  The Motorist government must set in motion the withdrawal of troops from our historic centres of culture, ending the destruction of British cultural heritage and the intimidatory disruption of daily civilian life and health.  The Motorist administration must arrange for the dismantling of illegal Motorist settlements in the few existing designated de-Motorised zones — the pavement, footpath, cycleway, and pedestrian shopping street.
  3. Equal treatment.  The British Citizen has subsidised the Motorist way of life (contrary to their propaganda that a mythical “Road Tax” and meagre “fuel duty” sufficiently cover the cost of their infrastructure, mitigation of their environmental destruction, lost economic productivity, and the injury, ill-health, and loss of life that they cause); the motorist has enjoyed superior publicly funded infrastructure and services at the expense of our communities and environment.  Under a ceasefire, we would therefore expect this situation to be replaced by one of equal treatment.  The Motorist government must give equal per-user street space to the non-motorist; Motorist councils and businesses must consider the safety and needs of the non-motorist, not just the convenience of Motorist troops when planning construction and maintenance projects in our streets.  While the cost of most conventional forms of travel, such as bus and rail, has consistently risen above the rate of inflation since conventional infrastructure was given away by the Motorist government to private companies with a focus on taking money rather than providing service, the Motorist government has engineered for the cost of the (still largely nationalised) Motorist way of life to fall behind inflation.  The Motorist administration must dismantle these state mechanisms for making the Motorist way of life cheaper and those for increasing the burdens on the normal citizen.
  4. Re-integration of troops.  The occupying forces must integrate into British society, including, but not limited to, adopting and being bound by the British legal system.  If the war is to end, Motorist forces will become civilians, and must therefore cease breaking civilian laws, and cease to be allowed to get away with breaking civilian laws.  Reintegration of troops into society requires that Motorist troops accept the responsibilities of civilian life and an end to their exemption from the laws that are in place to protect life and limb, and to preserve our cities and environment.

These are the initial simple demands that would allow the British people to live and work alongside the Motorists, and we hope that the Motorist generals will agree to these reasonable first steps towards dialogue and peace.  Over the coming weeks and months, this blog will track the progress of our negotiations to end this bloody war.